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posted: 5/10/2014 7:15 AM

App reviews: Freedome VPN, The Adventures of Ash and Ollie: ScreenTime

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By Hayley Tsukayama

Freedome VPN

Let's face it: It's a scary world. With data breaches and security flaws cropping up every day, it may seem like we're all helpless in the face of hacks. But it's important to remember that there are things you can do to protect yourself. Freedome VPN, an app from the Finnish security firm F-Secure, gives smart smartphone users an easy tool to protect their Internet traffic and, if they so choose, obscure where their own traffic is coming from with just a tap. The app also promises to protect you against attacks over mobile networks and Wi-Fi, as well as blocking advertising trackers. Each can be turned on or off in a few steps -- the iOS app has a slightly longer process, while the Android app is more or less a toggle switch.

The app is free to download, though you will have to pay after the seven-day trial period. Subscriptions cost $5 a month or $30 a year. While not a solution for everyone, it's not a bad idea for those worried about their mobile security and willing to pay for a little safety. Free to download for iOS and Android devices, subscription needed.

The Adventures of Ash and Ollie: ScreenTime

It's not often you come across an app that actively encourages you not to use it. But this one aims to teach kids about how much "screen time" is too much and does just that. The two-part app is an interactive e-book and game that offers parents an educational tool and a simple, fun game to teach kids about learning to step back from the screen.

It offers the story of two young brothers -- Ash and Ollie -- who share their experiences balancing digital and real-world play, as well as their frustrations with their parents over the limits they place on screen time. (The app advises half-hour stints, at most.) Throughout the short, narrated e-book, kids can tap to collect hidden objects that help them in the app's game, Rocket Racer. The game is simple and fun -- an easy tap-to-navigate game that asks kids to collect stars and avoid clouds on the way -- and parents will be happy to hear that they can set their own time limits for how long it goes on, to reinforce the lessons from the book. Free, for iOS and Android devices.

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